By the Way

A few days before the House of Commons adjourned for the Whitsuntide recess the Chancellor of the Exchequer made the statement that the falling off in the sale of National War Bonds was due to “pacifist activity.” Now if this were true, it would seem to indicate that at last war weariness was taking possession of quite a large section of the public. This, however, is not the real explanation of the falling off in War Loan. Another prominent member of the House, Sir Donald Maclean, speaking at Peebles, said “everything that had happened since the debate on the second reading of the last Military Service Bill had confirmed his view that it was a profound mistake to extend the military age beyond 47. The military value of men above that age was comparatively trivial, but the disturbance and disorganisation of civilian national activities had been incalculable.” He then went on to deliver the knock­ut blow to Mr. Bonar Law by adding—

“One of its first obvious results was the shrinkage of the weekly contributions to the War Loan. It was useless to attribute that to pacifist propaganda. Tribunal experience convinced him that businesses were in a state of complete uncertainty, and the inevitable tendency was to retention rather than investment.”—”Daily News,” May 20th, 1918.

So there you are, Bonar. You must really try again.

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The question of food rationing which, has been so prominently placed before us of late, and the admission of the Food Ministry of the necessity of a certain allowance—to be supplemented in other special cases—in order to keep the workers up to scratch, should not be loat sight of after the war. If a certain amount of food is necessary in war time to enable the wage slave to carry on in the interest of the ruling class, why not in time of peace, too ? Think it over.

* * *

The condemnation of capitalist society which is passed from timp to time by the very supporters of this hellish system, should be suffi­ient cause for stimulating thought and enquiry by the workers. Time and time again we are informed from capitalist sources of the physical degeneracy of the world’s working class. They who produce the wealth of the world, yet exist amidst dismal squalor, are so poorly nourished that our masters’ agents are continually informing us that vast numbers of our class are not •even fit for cannon fodder. So menacing has this condition become that we find springing up on every hand baby welfare centres, clinics, creches, and pre-natal institutions for pregnant women to ensure them sustenance from charitable sources in order to give them and the future wage slave, and possibly prospective recruit for the armed forces, a better start off in life as, owing to the economic conditions prevailing, so great a slaughter of the innocents has up to present been the order of the day.

* * *

In this connection I read that yet another organisation has been brought into existence and is to be known as the “Babies of the Empire” A Dr. Truby King has come from New Zealand to take over the medical directorship of this organisation, and he says—

“We shall leave no stone unturned to promote and help the education and practical training of women throughout the whole community in the simple essentials for healthy motherhood and the well being of children. We are aiming not merely at helping to further reduce the infantile mortality in this country, but at raising the standard of health of the survivors.”—”Daily News,” May 9th, 1918.

* * *

From the same item of news I gather the following extremely interesting admission—

“The war had revealed in every country an apalling amount of unfitness. The average percentage of men rejected for military service in this war in all belligerent countries had been 50 per cent.”

So we see that while the murder of our fellow humans is continuing, those who rule us are endeavouring themselves to eradicate some of the blemishes from their system. Thus do our enemies confirm the accuracy of our contention that there is nothing inside modern society that is worthy of the support of the working class. Born in poverty, dependent on charity in vast numbers of cases, sent out in tender years to augment the family pittance, and, later, continually tossed on the sea of capitalism to reach ultimately the workhouse—the goal of honest toil so accurately described by the chairman of the Anti-Socialist Union—these are the landmarks of working-class existence. Let us arise, “take up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them” !

* * *

The paltry and utterly contemptible spite of some of our fellow subjects is very well illustrated by the following taken from the “Daily News” (9.2.18):

“Knutsford Council, supported by the ratepayers, has decided to refuse admission to the Public Library to all conscientious objectors allowed out from the local prison, though the right to close a library to any respectable person was questioned.”

* * *

We have heard quite a lot of chatter during the war period of how those who rule over us are going to improve the unhappy lot of the toiling masses “by and by.” Yea, verily, portions of the Press have been pressed into service to discuss such questions as whether tho working clawses require front parlours and should the kitchen be used as a living room ? Now I, for one, would not deny the importance of such momentous questions, and, further, should be delighted to transport myself to, say, some quiet spot with a small house and garden far from the madding crowd—really a very modest desire. But somehow I fancy that I shall have to remain in my bug walk, and, as hope is cheap, hope that some day others of my class will desire to live as human beings. Having said which I pass on to the following item, which beautifully portrays the delights of working class existence in the 20th century of the Christian era:

“The sanitary inspector at Pontardawe, Glamorganshire, reports that a man with his wife and five children sleep in a room 8 ft. by 8 ft.”—”Reynolds’s,” May 26th, 1918.

I commend this quotation to the purveyors of red herrings who are so glibly talking of how they are really going to improve things “after the war,” if only the workers will be good for the duration.

* * *

This bright and brief extract from the “Daily News” (22.5.18) has an exquisitely rich flavour—”What did you do in the great war, Father ?” “My Son, it took me all my time to see that other people did not do me.”

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An illustration of spiritual wisdom. Quite recently Dean Inge delivered a sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral at which he said “we wanted to get rid of that hateful maxim, ‘Do or be done,’ as a substitute for ‘Do unto others as ye would be done by.’ ” He then went on to say “What a blessing it would be if no one tried to drive a hard bargain or to cheat his neighbour. Business would be a pleasant way of giving and receiving mutual advantage.” (“Daily Mews,” May 20th, 1918). The lack of understanding of commercial morality evinced by the reverend gentleman is enough to make a cat laugh. He entirely fails to grasp the essentials of capitalist anarchy. No, sir, the leopard cannot change his spots nor the Ethiopian his skin, neither can capitalism produce saints or effect the blessings you so ardently desire. The only cure for these anomalies is to remove the antagonisms which exist and place in their stead social effort with social ownership in the necessaries of life.

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One other item I would mention arising out of the before-mentioned gentleman’s sermon. He severely chided his brethren of the cloth. Let me quote: “He did not envy those ministers of religion who were trying to inflame the hatred, which was clearly beginning to die down, about the belligerents, nor those clerical sycophants who used wild, ignorant language about labour questions. We were servants of the Prince of Peace, and it was our duty to seek peace and ensue it.” I trust therefore, that this brotherly admonition will not be lost on those more warlike followers of the lowly Nazarene.

* * *

A short time ago there was a patriotic assembly at the Guildhall, the object being to distribute some medals to the Toy Sprouts and Cadet Corps. At this function Sir Robert Baden-Powell saw fit to trot out once again the story of the French Boy Scout who was alleged to have been shot by the Germans. One naturally understands these paeans in connection with the scout movement, and also divines the motive of the working up of these atrocity stories. But sad to relate, a writer in the daily Press spoils the little plot. He writes :

“But, talking about German outrages, what does Sir R. Baden-Powell mean by reproducing at the Guildhall on Saturday the story of the “little French lad” alleged to have been shot by the Germans for his pro-French sympathies ? When this story first madeits appearance at the beginning of the war it was pointed out that this particular “horror” depends for its atrocity upon a mistranslation. The German word Franzosling does not mean “a little French lad.” It means an inhabitant of Alsace-Lorraine who sympathises with the French. “The military execution of this German subject may,” as a correspondent remarks, “have been just or unjust. It furnishes no ground for the harrowing story told at the Guildhall.
What is so hard to excuse is the public repetition of this exploded story years after the facts have been fully set out in the Press. The case against the Germans is black enough in all conscience. Why weaken it by telling tales that will bear no examination, and merely give them the opportunity of saying that we are maglinantly mendacious scandal mongers ?”—”Daily News,” May 8th, 1918.

Thus do capitalist agents endeavour to fan the spark of hatred into a flame. The story of Sir R. Baden-Powell saw the light once again in several papers a few short weeks ago, but not so the extract given above.

* * *

At the moment of writing I have before me two newspaper cuttings. One is headed : “German Gold : Alleged bribery of Lenin and Trotzky by enemy agents.” The purport of this news item is to prove collaboratiou between Germany and the Russian revolutionists and is specially dished up for the delectation of English and French readers. The other equally stupid report is headed : “Lord Northcliffe Blamed: Comic German Story of American Gold for Strikers.” The story as to the effect that neutral and other agents are being sent to Germany supplied with large sums of money for propaganda purposes and to incite the workmen to sabotage, and so forth. The finishing touch to the story is given by the assertion that Senator Stone, Lord Northcliffe, and Lord Reading belong to the committee. This for the consumption of the German readers. In such ways are the workers of the world goaded on to greater sacrifices. Never was the Marxian slogan more applicable—”Wage workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains, yon have a world to win.”

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The attacks which have recently been made on the conscientious objectors at knutsford and Wakefield servo the very useful purpose of iHustrating those qualities which are alleged to be part of the make-up of the Englishman—love of fair-play and of justice. Reports which manage to gain publicity in the Press (and they are few) state that the objectors were very roughly handled, and that “one man was thrown into the canal.” Now when the “Germ-Hun” resorts to this kind of procedure large headlines are necessary to enlarge on the offence. In a short editorial dealing with these outrages “and the campaign of callumny directed against the conscientious objectors in connection with them,” the “Daily News” (27.5.18) says :

“If the conscientious objectors were criminals of the worst description it would still be the plain duty of the Government to protect them from organised outrage of this kind. A misguided conscience may be a misfortune to a community. Lynch law is a much worse evil.”

Those people who disagree with the attitude taken up by the objectors would do their own cause more good were they to order their conduct in this matter on lines less similar to that they are so fond of ascribing to the “Hun.”

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At a time when we are hearing a great deal about the ill-treatment of prisoners of war, the question of the severity of the regulations applied in British prisons is not inappropriate. Recently there appeared in the Press a letter signed by one Alfred J. Crosfield, Cambridge, and I propose giving a few extracts. Mr. Crosfield writes—

“Are your readers aware of the regulations applied in our British prisons to criminals, including in these days not a tew whose only offence is that they have refused to violate their conscientious convictions by taking any part in the destruction of their fellow men.
To begin with, on entering upon a term of hard labour there is a period of six weeks during which our criminals may neither write to their loved ones nor receive any letters from them. Then there is the rule of perpetual silence broken only on pain of prolonged imprisonment. If only pencil and paper were allowed life would to many be more tolerable. A recent correspondent dwelt on the senseless folly of punishment given to British prisoners in Germany for looking upwards to enjoy the clouds and sunshine. If one of our prisoners in Wormwood Scrubbs is found standing on his stool to get more daylight or a glimpse of trees and sky, he is condemned for the offence to three days on bread and water. A friend of mine who has served a term of hard labour describes it as “calculated, scientific, soulless cruelty, Prussianism in the true meaning of the term.”

More detailed still are the particulars given in Mrs. Hobhouse’s book, “I Appeal unto Caesar,” of the blessings conferred upon prisoners in “our” humane institutions. After all the protestations we have heard concerning “enemy” methods it would seem to be a case of “Physician, heal thyself.”


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